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6 Things to Know about Healthcare in Mexico for Expat Retirees

Expat retiree health insurance could come in handy when retiring in Mexico if you come from the US or Canada. You will be able to access excellent healthcare, at a fraction of the cost back home. It sounds too good to be true, right? but that’s not the end of the benefits you will get.

What’s more, you will be a stone’s throw away from home, and can still enjoy Mexico’s charming towns, warm weather, delicious food, and friendly locals. Now let’s crack on with 6 things to know about healthcare in Mexico for expat retirees in this Pacific Prime Latin America article.

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1. Three-tiered Healthcare System in Mexico

Most countries have a two-tiered healthcare system consisting of a public and private healthcare sector. However, Mexico has a three-tiered healthcare system consisting of two public and one private healthcare sector.

Before you consider getting expat retiree health insurance, here are the key points you should be aware of:

Public Sector

Public healthcare services are offered in a two-tier system – basic coverage via Instituto de Salud para el Biernestar (INSABI) and comprehensive coverage via Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS). IMSS is Mexico’s social security program for public and private sector employees.

Private Sector

Mexico’s third-tier healthcare system is offered through private health insurance. It’s not surprising that it gives expats far more convenience and comfort when seeking medical care, not to mention lower wait times and easier communication (due to a lack of language barrier), at a higher cost.

2. Eligibility for Expats to Enroll in the IMSS Program

Did you know that expats are also eligible to enroll in IMSS? Upon officially being employed in Mexico, employers have to pay for their employee IMSS contribution to enroll in the program. This happens automatically and is required regardless of whether the employee has private health insurance.

For the case of retirees, it’s also possible to enroll in IMSS on a voluntary basis for around MXN $2,000 – 5,500 (USD $117- $320) a year depending on the age of the individual. This option is only available to those who have legal residency status in Mexico.

But IMSS also has its drawbacks for expat retirees. For starters, there is a lot of paperwork involved, and that too in Spanish. Moreover, there are limitations for those with pre-existing conditions. To get a full picture of IMSS, check out this article about what foreigners should know about IMSS.

3. Significant Variation of the Quality of Care in Urban and Rural Areas

The quality of care in the private healthcare sector is higher than its public counterpart. For starters, private hospitals have a greater range of specialists and more state-of-the-art facilities for shorter wait times. Communication is also easier as many doctors and staff members are bilingual.

But the divide doesn’t end there, as there’s also the urban and rural divide. Urban areas and big cities such as Mexico City have a better selection of both private and public facilities.

In contrast, rural areas often only have a basic public clinic. So many patients in rural areas must travel to regional centers to get better healthcare, which overcrowds these centers.

4. Pharmacies are Challenging to Navigate

For ailments that don’t require a trip to the hospital, local pharmacies often do the trick. In Mexico, there are two categories of pharmacies: Segunda Clase (or “pharmacy lite”) and Primera Clase.

The former can only dispense routine medication such as antibiotics, cholesterol drugs, and allergy treatment, while the latter can dispense any medication for which there is a prescription including potentially addictive medication like painkillers.

Note: While Segunda Clases are very common in big cities and small towns, Primera Clases are much harder to find. If you’ve been prescribed medicine that requires you to go to a Primera Clase, you should check with your doctor where to find the appropriate facility.

5. Relatively Lower Cost Healthcare

Granted, getting your head around the healthcare system in Mexico may be challenging. But it’s totally worth doing given the immense cost savings possible. This is because the cost of healthcare in Mexico is relatively lower than what you might be used to back home.

For example, diagnostic tests and standard doctor appointments cost at least a third less than similar visits in the US. You can save large sums in the long run.

Note: Some hospitals that serve international clientele have been known to inflate medical bills so you should be wary of them. Check with the expat community in your area for recommendations on clinics and hospitals to visit.

6. Retiree Health Insurance is Secured by Many Expat Retirees

Even though expat retirees in Mexico may be able to access IMSS and the cost of healthcare is relatively low, many still choose to secure a retiree health insurance plan.

Should you require major surgery or comprehensive care, even reasonably priced healthcare services can quickly add up and spiral. Having a private health insurance plan gives you the added peace of mind that you’ll be protected if the worst happens.

Additionally, securing retiree health insurance via a broker gives you plenty of value-added services that save you time and hassle. For example, some private hospitals and clinics in Mexico require a ‘Guarantee of Payment’ certificate from your insurer as a kind of collateral.

As you can imagine, the last thing you want to be worrying about when trying to access healthcare is financial matters or liaising with insurers.

That’s Where Pacific Prime Latin America Comes In

As a global health insurance brokerage, Pacific Prime Latin America has 20+ years of experience helping expat retirees in Mexico and beyond secure the appropriate retiree health insurance plan for their needs and budget.

We work with the top insurers in the region to offer retirees the best health insurance in Mexico, as well as provide plenty of support and assistance when it comes to using said health insurance plan.

You can start your health insurance journey by checking out the insurance plans available from Pacific Prime Latin America, comparing plans using our online quotation tool, or speaking to an insurance advisor today!

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Eric is an experienced content writer specializing in writing creative copies of marketing materials including social media posts, advertisements, landing pages, and video scripts.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Eric was exposed to a new world of insurance. Having learned about insurance products extensively, he has taken joy and satisfaction in helping individuals and businesses manage risks and protect themselves against financial loss through the power of words.

Although born and raised in Hong Kong, he spent a quarter of his life living and studying in the UK. He believes his multicultural experience is a great asset in understanding the needs and wants of expats and globe-trotters.

Eric’s strengths lie in his strong research, analytical, and communication skills, obtained through his BA in Linguistics from the University of York and MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Bristol.

Outside of work, he enjoys some me-time gaming and reading on his own, occasionally going absolutely mental on a night out with friends.
Eric Chung